When we start a new website project at Roundpeg, we spend a lot of time talking about themes. So what’s a theme? Not so fast Romeo, let’s get a handle on WordPress first. Roundpeg’s websites depend on this software to run. Like the engine in a car, it’s the unseen power-house under the hood. When you’re writing a blog post, that’s the WordPress engine working and when you’re checking your website’s traffic statistics, that’s data recorded by WordPress. Website owners change and update their site with the power of this engine.

A theme is the top-level surface that your customers interact with. It manages the way all of your information is displayed and how it looks to visitors. At the very least, a theme is like a sparkling coat of paint that makes the website yours. Premium and professionally built themes like the ones we use often come with their own add-ons that make designing new looks a lot of fun.

After the project kick-off meeting, we select two or three themes from our favorite designers. We add sample images and the client’s logo and then we send them off for feedback. Simple, right? Just shop around until the right one appears. Yeah, simple like picking out new curtains or finding the car with the feature pack and paint job that feels just right.

Picking the right theme is a crucial step in the web development process. Switching themes half-way in can mean a significant delay and significant hair-pulling on both the client and developer’s end.

Here are a few of the things we think about before we show clients a mock-up:

1. Will the theme serve the client well? – A beautifully designed theme is worthless if it doesn’t have the layout and structure to suit the needs identified in our kick-off meeting. This is the heart-breaker. I don’t know how many times we’ve had to leave a good theme behind because its layout didn’t meet for the client’s needs.

2. Is it well-made? – The segments of code that define it must fit together cleanly like the gears of a watch. Ugly code is a deal breaker, no matter how nice it looks on the outside.

3. How can we refine it? – This is where things get interesting. As web developers, it’s our job to collect and piece together everything to make great websites. If a theme is walled up and resists modifications, it’s going to be nixed from our short list. I’m always looking for themes with lots of customization opportunities.

All of this thinking and planning sounds like a drag, but it’s not. We recognize and embrace the challenge of creating something new. Themes help us fulfill the vision our clients have for their website and business.

Need help? Contact Roundpeg, an Indianapolis web design firm.